Here’s what happened:
The three Navy SEALs stomped on bound Afghan detainees and dropped heavy stones on their chests. They stood on the prisoners’ heads and poured bottles of water on their faces in an improvised form of waterboarding.
A bomb had exploded at an Afghan Local Police checkpoint where the SEALs were conducting training. Angered by the death of one of their comrades, the police rounded up half a dozen or more “suspects” from a nearby village. Along the way, they beat them with rifle butts and car antennas. The men from SEAL Team 2 joined in, jump-kicking a man kneeling on the ground. They beat one detainee to death.
Four American soldiers working with the SEALs reported the episode. In a Navy criminal investigation, two American support personnel said they had witnessed the abuse by the SEALs, as did a local police officer. Another Afghan provided a detailed account to investigators.
SEAL command cleared the Team 2 members of any wrongdoing in a closed disciplinary process that is typically used only for minor infractions, disregarding a Navy lawyer’s recommendation that the troops face assault charges. Three of the SEALs have since been promoted, even though their commander in Afghanistan recommended that they be forced out of the elite teams.
Should we care? Yes, we should care.
The moral high ground is about all we have left on our side in the failed war of terror. The beating is horrific, and will echo through Afghan society and beyond. The lack of penalty against the SEALS is almost worse, because, like what happens all too often here in the Homeland everytime a cop gets away with the murder or beating of one of us, it simply sends the signal to the troops that their behavior is OK. Maybe the message is war justifies everything, or simply boys will be boys, or, like the Blue Line, thugs need to stick together and cover each others’ backs, right or wrong.
A man who had no reason to die is dead in Afghanistan (and Baltimore, and New York, and…) and no one is held responsible. See the pattern?
Peter Van Buren blew the whistle on State Department waste and mismanagement during Iraqi reconstruction in his first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. His latest book is Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99 Percent. Reprinted from the his blog with permission.